Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ambler YMCA Summer Solstice 5K

This race report is subtitled by Jen: "I can't handle you and this 5K
thing anymore." <grin>

It was kinda stormy here last night but I figured as long as they were
going to have the race I would run it. When I got there I tried to
avoid the crowds by stretching out under the football stadium
bleachers. It was pretty muddy and drippy, but I thought that beat
just getting soaked in the parking lot.

I saw a few faces I recognized warming up, but not a ton.

The race was about 20 minutes late getting started. I don't know if
this was because they were really waiting for the storms to pass, or
if they were just a bit disorganized.

I was picking out all the fast looking people out front, and (as I
usually do) tried to pick out who I thought was the fastest. And as
usual, I was wrong.

My hamstring has been bugging me on and off since last week's race and
it was still tight in warmups. I don't think the 20 minutes of
standing at the line and occasionally doing a strider really helped.

The race had a funny start. They had been going through
announcements, letting sponsors talk, singing the national anthem,
etc. Then a woman got up and said "Runners I have one more
annoucement... take your marks HONK!". I was like, whoa crap, she
just started the race!

I got a spasm in my hamstring about 400m in, and that made me pretty
nervous, but it faded.

It was a big field, but we all got off cleanly. There were a lot of
high school kids there and one crazy dude with an iPod on who went
through the half mile in probably 2:20. I was thinking I did not want
to be that dude at mile 2. I was in maybe 10th place at the half
mile. I saw a local guy I know starting to settle into a groove and
some of the HS kids started coming back, so I got in behind him.

At mile 1 I was next to another guy and a few steps behind first.
Mile one was 5:04. Uh-oh! It sure didn't feel that fast.

Mile 2 went onto a short nature path that was a nice change up. I
felt pretty strong and was able to keep the leader less than 10-15m in
front of me. There was no 2 mile split, but I'm pretty sure I was
around 10:20 or so.

We went around a sharp turn on the course here and I could see that I
had a good gap on #3.

At this point I thought I was sitting pretty. I thought I could feel
#1 starting to fade and I thought that I might have enough to get him
and the PR.

Then right around minute 11 I got a sharp cramp in the hamstring.
Owie. I thought about stoppping, but this season has been too long to
give up on a race.

The last mile was just painful and my stride was falling apart.
Number 3 caught me just as we headed onto the track for the finish and
I really just couldn't extend to keep up with him.

So I was 3rd overall in 16:53, about 5 seconds behind #2 and 15
seconds behind #1 - both guys that I know.

I won a nice dinner gift certificate for placing. Now all I need is a
race that gives out babysitters!

Those ugly splits look something like 5:04, 5:15, 5:55 pace. Ouch!

The hamstring is still pretty sore today, but I'm going to see what I
can do about pulling one or two more races out of it before I call it
a season.

So I am a little disappointed, I thought I was in a good position for
a PR, but I knew it was a little risky going in. The hamstring was a
big factor, the first mile was too fast. Kind of a dumb mistake on my
part. It didn't feel that fast going out.

Fun race overall though, nice course.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jenkintown Summer Sunset 5K - 6/11

Last night was my hometown 5k. This is really one of my favorite
races and it's the only race I've run every year since I started
running. Our town is an old-school small town just outside of Philly.
Picture 1920s houses, kids walk to school, small downtown, that kind
of thing.

The race winds in and around the town so I know the roads and the
course like the back of my hand. They have been running it for almost
20 years now.

The turnout is just great. I don't know how many people there were -
but it was easily 300-350 people. I was joking with a neighbor that
we probably knew half the field. That's only a slight exaggeration.
We run a team every year just from our street. Go Team Hillside!

It's a big event for our town. Kids come out with handmade signs,
people sit out on the front lawns to cheer, it's a blast.

So have I talked you into coming next year?

My brother's girlfriend was around to watch the kids, so Jen and I
went over to pick up numbers and warmup around 6. It was still warm
(low 80s?) but waayyy better then it was over the weekend. I was
happy to see that the guy who co-owns the local running store was
running it. He is an excellent runner so I knew there would be
someone to chase.

Warming up was fun, and I did a little bit of it with Jen. They had a
DJ warming up the crowd and when it was time to head for the line he
played the Chariots of Fire theme. Now that's knowing your audience!
I felt loose and ready to go.

I lined up front with the running store guy, a bunch of guys from the
running store team, practically the whole HS XC team and as many other
people who we could squeeze up there.

Things started fast as they tend to do when there are a ton of HS
kids. I let them go and just stuck off he shoulder of the running
store guy. By the half mile it was me, him and a guy in a backwards

The first mile of the course is almost entirely downhill. There's one
stretch with a pretty good downhill for about 4 blocks. I settled
into 3rd here - I really need to work on my downhill running. It was
still the 3 of us ahead by a bit but I could hear an enormous pack
thundering just behind me, so I was running scared.

I hit the first mile at 5:15. That would be a great split for me
right now for a flat race, but it worried me a little since what goes

Mile 2 is rolling, but generally downhill. Here running store guy
really started to pull away and hat guy was slowly opening a a bigger
gap. Every time we hit a downhill he would add another meter or 2.

Jen told me later that there were all sorts of people we knew out on
this stretch cheering, but I honestly don't remember seeing any of

I could totally feel the burn starting around 1.5 miles. Right at the
2 mile mark, you make a hard left and it's pretty much all uphill from

At this point hat guy had maybe 15 meters on me and running store guy
was a good way up the hill.

I have really struggled in the 5k with making moves late in the race.
When I am running so close to the red line it's just mentally and
physically really hard to get it together and hunt somebody down.

As we started up the hill I thought about settling for third (I was
third last year). Then somehow I decided that I have run that hill
too many times to settle for third. 15 meters became 10, which became
5. About halfway up the hill I finally pulled up on his shoulder,
then pushed past.

I'd like to think that I hammered it hard and put a gap on him, but I
think the reality is that we were both dying and I was just dying
less. Maybe that's the same thing.

Once you hit the top of the hill, it's kind of deceiving. There's
about .75 left and you think it should be flattening out, but it's
still just trending uphill.

Once I got past hat guy, I tried to focus on just turning my legs
over. My hamstrings were totally starting to tighten up.

I pushed as hard as I could over the last .5 mile but the gap on
running store guy was too big for me to close at that point. He ran a
16:35, I was second in 16:50. The kiddos were at a playground and
there is nothing that can get you to hammer like hearing "GOOOO
DADDDYYYYY!!!" Hat guy was about 20-25 seconds back so I had put a
decent gap on him.

After the finish I was just obliterated and my legs were shredded. I
headed back out onto the course with the best jog that I could manage
to cheer on the neighbors coming in and look for Jen. When she came
by I hopped out and tried to run with her a bit, but she was going too
fast so I just gave a big cheer and walked over to meet her at the

Overall, I'm very happy with the race. I said yesterday that I would
be ecstatic with anything under 17 on that course, and I am. I'm
really proud of coming back to close a gap and beat somebody - I have
never done that late in a race and have sometimes doubted that I
could. Plus it was a 25 second improvement over last year on the same

Grace and I after the race:

Monday, June 9, 2008

Oy Vey 5K

Oy Vey indeed. A bank sign across the street from the race said 91 at
9 am. Plus crazy muggy, which really is worse.

I met a guy before the race who's a local HS track coach and was
looking to run a similar time. We talked about maybe taking it out
hard, but by
the time we were done warming up, the sun had come out and it was just
brutal. I wasn't just wet after a 2 mile jog, I was saturated.

Jen and I had also had the kiddos out on Saturday at a carnival, so i
was already half-baked form that.

Needless to say, we took it out easy. If the guy with the watch was in
the right place, we ran a 6:10 first mile and the both of us were just
chatting. He might have been late, I think we started a little faster
than that. At that point there were 2 guys behind us.

There was no 2 mile split, so I'm just guessing that maybe we ran 5:50
for the second mile, and at that point there was no one within sight
behind us. Maybe all the smart
people stayed home.

We cranked the last mile, maybe 5:10 pace, if all those numbers add
up. He had a bigger kick than me and I was 2nd in 17:40.

Hopefully he weather breaks a little bit by Wednesday night for the
Jenkintown 5K.

Monday, June 2, 2008



Sunday afternoon added 10 around 7:30 pace as a rare double.

June Fete 5k 6/1

Saturday I had plans to go to a track meet and try out a 5000 on the
track, but dicey weather led me to skip it.

Sunday though, my wife was already planning to run a low-key local 5k
that benfits our local hospital. So we got a babysitter and I came

I ran into Chuck - a great local runner - warming up for the race. He
and I run together sometimes at the local running store, but with my
schedule I haven't made it there in a few months. He's a great runner
and I was sure he would keep the pace honest, although he had just
raced Saturday at the track meet that I bagged on. I didn't warmup
quite as much as I usually would, but did a some stretching and a
short jog and decided to let someone else go out first.

The race had a pretty goofy start - they lined us up in a narrow
driveway, and we would run down that driveway and make a quick hard
left out onto the road. I decided that I was going to be the first one
around that corner and it wasn't a bad idea, since I heard someone
behind get caught up on the curb and go down hard.

When we went around the corner I immediately backed off and let
someone else take the lead. It was funny, there was a pretty big pack
of us that stuck together, probably a dozen guys or so for the first
mile. It's pretty unusual to have that many people up front in a small
race. The first mile "marker" went by at maybe 5:35, but it didn't
really feel that fast. The course was really winding and hilly so it
was hard to judge. I think it was really probably closer to 5:50. It
was also not the best marked course - there were a few places they had
marked a turn and then sent someone back to say not to turn there.

For the first mile, Chuck and I stayed on either side of he pack, and
no one made a move get get away. After the first mile marker Chuck & I
started to pick it up and string the pack out a bit. One guy stuck
with us, between and just a little behind, but he was breathing pretty

I had seen a few guys at the start who looked slim and fast, and I
just kept expecting one of them to come busting by, but at mile 2 it
was Chuck and I and the other guy. The second mile was maybe high
5:30s? Hard to tell. Plus I had missed the start button on my watch,
so I was looking at 0s.

The course had a big loop, so when we rejoined I got to see my wife
going the other way. I wanted to high-5 her but there were too many
people in the way.

Right about the 2 mile mark we started a long hill, maybe about a half
mile or so and I decided to make a move. I didn't look back and just
punched it up the hill. By the top I couldn't hear anyone, so I
figured the gap was decent.

From there it was just down a hill, around a corner and in.

It was fun - there were a lot of people a the finish line cheering.
Finished 1st overall - time was 17:30 something. I looked at the clock
as I went across but promptly forgot what it said.

Who even knows how long the course was. I'll guess a little long. It
was so winding I couldn't even remember it if I wanted to go and try
to measure!

Chuck was maybe 25 seconds back so I grabbed a water for him and
headed back out to run in with DW. We metup maybe 3/4 a mile out and I
got to finish with her - her first real (i.e. no jog stroller) 5k - in

She was ecstatic. Plus she won her AG and got a sweet little shoe bag.

I won a gift card to a local restaurant I've never been to. Plus they
had water ice at the finish. Sweet! Not a PR day or a PR course, but
fun nonetheless.